|Israel Resource Review
||4th December, 2005
The Late Kaare Kristiansen: From a reporter's diary
BYLINE: DAVID BEDEIN, ISRAEL RESOURCE NEWS AGENCY
Norwegian statesman Kaare Kristiansen, who made his name as a friend of
Israel since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, passed away
on Sunday at the age of 85.
My first contact with Kaare Kristiansen was in Jerusalem in December, 1994,
when I was literally en route to fly to Norway, to cover the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, where Arafat, Peres and Rabin were being honored.
I got beeped to hear Kristiansen in Jerusalem.
With my suitcase in hand, I encountered Kristiansen as he entered into
Jerusalem's Hilton Hotel, arm in arm with Yehudah Wachsman, whose son Nachshon had been kidnapped and then brutally murdered only six weeks before.
Kristiansen had called an impromptu press conference, to apologize to the people of Israel for the Nobel Peace Prize that Arafat was about to receive, and explained why he had resigned from the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 1994 - as a protest against the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize that year to Arafat.
Kristiansen spoke in an unambiguous tone saying that "Arafat is not a man of peace or integrity, and not someone who deserves a Nobel Peace Prize", adding that "Arafat had yet to speak a word of peace and reconciliation to his own people in their own language".
It was refreshing to hear a politician speaking in clear terms of integrity, a man who was ahead of his time in warning that Arafat was not a man of peace and a man who deserved no prizes of any kind.
Five years later was my second encounter with Kristiansen, this time in Oslo, when signatories to the Oslo process organized a fifth anniversary
celebration of the Oslo process at the same hotel in the Norwegian capital where the Oslo accords were signed. Our agency brought the videos of Arafat's speeches for the Norwegian media to witness, where Arafat called for Israel's destruction, while the Oslo negotiations were indeed taking place.
I called Kristiansen to ask him if he would be kind enough to present these
videos to the Norwegian media, and to translate Arafat's words into Norwegian for the local press. Kristiansen did exactly that, and met with the leading lights of the Norwegian media for more than three hours, and translated Arafat's incitement which had never before been shared with the local Norwegian press.
And Kristiansen did this with Arafat sitting less than 30 feet away in an
adjacent meeting room.
Even more interesting was the scoop that Kristiansen gave to the Norwegian
press, which was that the "declaration of principles" which formed the basis of the Oslo accords which had been hammered out in Olso at that hotel spot throughout the summer of 1993 was never even ratified by the PLO.
The third encounter that I had with Kristiansen occurred after our news agency had discovered from the publicly available records of the Peres Center for Peace that the Peres Center had provided Norwegian politician Terye Larsen and his wife with a $100,000 prize, just before Larsen became appointed as the chief UN peace negotiator.
Kristiansen read about this gratuity and stated to a Norwegian TV station that Peres had promised remuneration to Larsen in order to ensure that he would share the Nobel Peace Prize with the late Prime Minister Rabin. Indeed, Larsen became the international chairman of the Peres Center for Peace, a position which he held until assuming responsibilities at the UN.
I called Kristiansen and he was quite explicit in affirming that he witnessed the deal that was made between Peres and Larsen to assure Larsen that he would be "well rewarded for his efforts".
Last year, following Arafat's death, Kristiansen warned against great hopes for Abbas, Arafat's successor, saying that " the current optimistic view on the part of the majority in the Knesset regarding "new" positive attitudes among the Palestinians is a deja vu repetition of the most complete failure of the Middle East conflict, the so-called "Oslo Agreement".
On August 18th of this year, Kristiansen was invited to a dinner party sponsored jointly with Israeli government which took place at the end of the week when Israel forcibly expelled 10,,000 Jews from their homes in Katif and Northen Samaria.
Kristiansen declined the invitation, saying that " The Israel Government
expulsion of Gush Katif Jews is not an internal Israeli affair. It is everyone's affair. This expulsion is an immoral and illegal act violating international ethical, human, legal and social rights. This reality was affirmed by Israel Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy in his dissenting opinion opposing the Gush Katif expulsion and by University of Sydney Professor of International Law Julius Stone of blessed memory".
In his letter to the Israeli ambassador in Oslo, Kristiansen wrote that
"Being neither an Israeli citizen nor a Jew, I have been reluctant to
express my opinions publicly in a situation where the expression of such
opinions might be interpreted as foreign meddling in internal Israeli
affairs. My excuse is love for Israel. Over a decade ago, I protested as
immoral the Nobel Prize Committee awarding a "peace" prize to Yasser Arafat
in December, 1994, and resigned from the Nobel Prize Committee as an
expression of that protest then. Over a decade later, I protest as immoral
the illegal Israel Government expulsion of the Gush Katif Jews today".
[These quotations from Krtistiansen are taken from a formal statement released by the Root and Branch Association on August 18th, 2005]
The question remains as to whether the government of Israel will express its appreciation to Kaare Kristiansen for the warnings that he gave Israel concerning the nature of Yassir Arafat.
This week would be therefore be an appropriate time to do so.
Kaare Kristiansen political bio
With thanks to:
Erez Uriely, director
Norwegian Israel Center Against anti-Semitism (NIS)
Kristiansen was the leader of the Christian People's Party during the
periods of 1975-1977 and 1979 1983. He was elected Member of Parliament
from 1973 to 1977, and from 1981 to 1989. He served as Minister of Oil and
Energy from 1983 to 1986.
Kristiansen was politically involved during his whole life. He was elected
the first time as a member of the municipality in 1951, and ended his last
term in 1999.
In 1989 he resigned as a Member of Parliament on the grounds that his own
party had distanced itself from its original purpose and course.
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Why was Netanya a Target Again Today?
This is written as news comes of yet another bomb attack in Netanya, with reports that the Al Aksa Brigades of the Fateh is taking credit for the attack.
Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian National Authority, also serves as the chairman of the Fateh movement.
At the end of November 2000, our agency organized a lecture at a retirement home in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, to discuss the PLO demand that all Arabs who have wallowed in UN refugee camps for the past 50 years have the "right to return" to villages that they left in 1948.
We showed them the map of a "future Palestinian State" which the PLO Orient House headquarters provided us in Jerusalem, which marked the 531 Arab villages that are slated for return, all of which had been overrun in 1948.
One of those villages was Umm Khalid, which, according to the PLO, had been illegally absorbed by Netanya.
The PLO defines Netanya as one of Israel's "illegal settlements," under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, enacted in 1949, which forbids a conquering nation from moving its citizens into a conquered area.
The implications: the PLO will justify any attack on any such settlement that it views as "illegal.", under international law. The head of the PLO Refugee Department, Daoud Barakat, confirmed this for us in a taped interview.
In January 1995, following Hamas terror bombs that killed 21 people at a bus stop at the Beit Lid/Netanya junction, The PLO secretary general Marwan Barghouti, now in prison for the first degree murders of 13 people, calmly told MBC Saudi television why the PLO would justify an attack on Netanya: "This is an area that we have yet to liberate."
We have that video readily available.
Meanwhile, the December 1995 PLO-Hamas accord, signed in Cairo by both Palestinian factions, allows Hamas to carry out operations in areas within Israel proper that have "not yet been liberated".
The Palestinian spin on the "right of return" plays out in many ways that have escaped public attention:
Over the past seven years, the PLO has developed a computer data base at www.palestineremembered.com which helps Arab refugees locate their homes from before 1948.
This is to enable their imminent right of return to places like Umm Khalid - by force, if necessary.
The above presentation five years ago made retirees at the Netanya nursing home very nervous. They could not believe what they were hearing, that their city was considered to be a target.
They became quite emotional, and some of the retirees actually screamed that "all the Palestinians want is the west bank and Gaza."
It was clear that the message that the PLO demanded the "right of return" to Netanya was a hard one for these senior citizens to swallow.
Yet there was one man who made it easy to listen: An Arab male nurse present asked to say something at the end of the lecture.
He approached the podium He stared at the map and turned to speak to the retirees. "This is what want. The right of return. That would bring peace," said the nurse. I asked him if that meant that Israel would have to withdraw from Umm Khalid.
The nurse, in a soft voice, said "yes".
I then said to the nurse that this would mean that half of the Jews would have to leave their homes in Netanya. The nurse said, "Well, that would be the price of peace."
The retirees were stunned. The Arab nurse at the Netanya nursing home had conveyed my message -- with greater credibility.
Since that talk in Netanya, more than a dozen Arab terror bombs have exploded in the center of Netanya.
From the PLO point of view, these bombings occur because Netanya -- or Um Khalid -- has not yet been "liberated from occupation".
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Abbas Approves PA Assistance to Families of Suicide Bombers
Jonathan D. Halevi
Special report to "News First Class-Hebrew" at www.nfc.co.il
On the very day of a suicide bombing in Netanya, Machmud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority gave budgetary approval to assistance for the families of suicide bombers.
Each martyr's family will receive a monthly stipend of at least $250 from the PA.
The budget for families of martyrs, prisoners, and the wounded could reach $100 million a year out of an annual budget of over $1 billion.
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Analysis: UNRWA Under Attack
UNITED NATIONS, December 5 (UPI) -- For the last couple of years, UNRWA -- U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees -- has been repeatedly called upon to defend its mission. Established in 1948 and serving the humanitarian needs of more than 4 million Arab refugees, UNRWA has become a major player in ensuring peace in the Middle East. Now, the agency is being accused of propaganda.
David Bedein, bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, spoke to the U.N. Correspondents'Association about what he's seen in UNRWA camps since he began covering them 28 years ago. "This is not an issue of Arabs versus Jews but of a moral code of UNRWA," he said. "We're asking more questions than getting answers, and we've been asking questions for a while."
UNRWA manages 59 Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
Arlene Kushner, an investigative journalist for the Center for Near East Policy Research, has compiled reports detailing UNRWA's pro-Palestinian stance.
In one of her pieces she writes of an UNRWA-organized school holding a service to commemorate the death of Mahmud Tavalba, a leader of Islamic jihad, killed weeks earlier by the Israeli Defense Force. Kushner says the agency insists on maintaining high tension in refugee camps. "UNRWA has a whole series of practices such as making people name the hometown villages they left," she said. "The vast majority of villages they talk about are not there any more."
The attacks from pro-Israeli parties have forced UNRWA to publicly defend its activities, denying charges such as the use of anti-Semitic textbooks in its schools.
The agency has an annual budget of more than $400 million a year, 30 percent of which comes from the United States.
Saahir Lone Sr., UNRWA liaison officer, said the agency does not support any political ideology. "We're there to make sure they're (the refugees) not hungry and that their human development needs are taken care of," he said.
The establishment of UNRWA precedes the setting up of the United Nations High Commision for Refugees, the organization that handles refugee problems throughout the world, except the Palestinians.
While UNHCR employs workers from all over the world, UNRWA's staff of 25,000 people is almost exclusively drawn from Palestinians. This disparity in the number of employees is often pointed out by critics of UNRWA.
UNRWA's Chief Liaison Officer Maher Nasser told United Press International the two organizations had different mandates and hence varying hiring practices. Geneva-based, "UNHCR supports a huge international staff which carries out its mandate all over the world," Nasser said. "On the other hand, we only have 140 international staff members and hire our teachers, nurses, micro finance workers and others locally."
Nasser said local hires were essential because they were familiar with the language and culture of the region.
UNRWA has also been criticized for hiring without conducting background checks into its employees. Kushner, for example, said the militant Islamic group Hamas has a strong influence in Gaza in employee unions, especially among teachers. Hamas is fielding candidates in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January.
"We have a very serious problem here," she said. "There have been instances of Hamas rallies on the school grounds of UNRWA schools."
But Nasser denies this. "When we hire someone we request them to provide references and then we conduct background checks to ensure the validity of the information," he said. UNRWA staffers knew that under U.N. laws they were forbidden from taking part in any political activities.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is a strong advocate for elimination of UNRWA as a separate entity under U.N. Reform Act of 2005. Recently, in light of the charges levied against UNRWA, Ros-Lehtinen and others have started calling for an integration of the two U.N. refugee agencies.
"It is time for UNRWA's separate status to be rescinded, and for UNRWA to be integrated into UNHCR, Gaza first," she wrote in an October 9 op-ed in the Israel Resource Review.
Nasser said such a move may prove disastrous. "We already have an infrastructure that is seen as a major source of stability in the region," he said. "Refugees have developed confidence in our mission and familiarity with our activities. Any attempt to do away with UNRWA will be seen by Palestinians as an attempt to undermine their status as refugees."
Nasser said an elimination of UNRWA could have political implications.
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari Monday came to the organization's aid, saying continued support of humanitarian programs for Palestinian refugees is vital to maintaining stability in the region.
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